We Shake With Joy, We Shake With Grief

We Shake With Joy, We Shake With Grief

Jane Shapiro, Founder Orot: The Center for New Jewish Learning, Sharsheret Illinois Advisory Board Member

We shake with Joy
we shake with joy,
we shake with grief.
what a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.

Mary Oliver

Adar has an unusual character. First, it is the one month in the Jewish year when we are told “Mishenichnas Adar marbim beSimcha”: “From the time Adar enters, joy increases.” The raucous and crazy festivities of the Purim holiday arrive in the middle of the month, when children and adults alike can masquerade, make a lot of noise in synagogue, eat and share goodies and candy. As the Hasidic teacher the Sefat Emet suggests. Adar enters into the psyche of a Jewish person, and penetrates every part of their being and filling them with joy.

The other mood is called hipuch, the sense of the world being turned upside down. One minute Esther is with her family. The next minute she is the Queen. One minute the Jews are in mortal danger and the next they are triumphant. In the kingdom of King Ahasuerus one minute Haman is in power and in the next it is Mordechai. Reading the Megillah on Purim reminds us that our fate is fragile, can turn in a split second, and that we must maintain our connections to one another in order to survive.

How interesting that this holiday above all unseemingly gets what life is like when diagnosis, treatment, and recovery are at the center. One moment we might be healthy and in another moment, topsy turvy. One moment we may be frightened and the next, feel just fine. Our physical state might change daily and our hope too. How to maintain some steadiness through it all?

I believe that the Sefat Emet offers us a good clue. Many things may be entering our bodies as part of treatment at this time. But how can we also let simcha (joy) penetrate our beings as well? What can we do to increase our personal joy?

Here are a few simple suggestions. First may be to eliminate or reduce what does not generate joy in your life. This is not a negative casting off but rather a conscious choice to make more room for the good stuff you love. If there a time in the day when sadness seems to show up, then what about making that the time when you go outside and enjoy the beginnings of Spring? Ask to be around the people who fill you up and make you laugh. Enjoy the healthy foods that you love. If you are able, find some way to be of service to others, something that social scientists say has more to do with personal happiness than almost any other thing. Praying with joy or song might lift you up. Turning to joy and choosing it might be the best way possible to stamp out the uncertainties of life. And like Esther, who fasted and prayed for three days before she appeared before the King, perhaps we will find the inner resolve we need to become the heroines of our own lives.